I believe the FIA have treated Daniel Ricciardo too harshly, on the basis that he had no control or knowledge of the programming involved in the fuel flow sensor. Officials have already freely admitted this.
If it is proven Red Bull have breached the rules, then the team should lose Constructer Points and Ricciardo should retain his Driver position. There is precedent, with events in 2007, when McLaren were fined (and excluded) for having illegal inside information on rivals Ferrari, however McLaren drivers Alonso and Hamilton were not penalised.
There are still a few issues to be established, or confirmed – the part in question measures fuel volume per hour, yet it appears the rules stipulate a fuel weight per hour. And whilst the meter is used in other motor sport applications, the authorities were concerned enough about its performance to recommend a software change or adjustment. It’s a safe bet that Red Bull and every other team up and down pit lane were deeply concerned, this was the first time these new cars and engines had been driven in anger, on a very different fuel mix to all previous races.
Red Bull claims their system gave a reliable reading, so they made the choice to stay with it. Claims that Ricciardo’s car used more fuel (per hour) than allowed seem spurious – he didn’t use all the allotted fuel, nor did he run on to empty. In other words, he gained no advantage from Red Bull’s decision, other than that team had an accurate reading of his fuel consumption. It looks increasingly as though FIA officials are determined to punish the team for disobeying their instructions to use the acknowledged faulty part / software and the aforementioned possibility of an advantage over other teams in having a more accurate (read better) fuel metering system.
Either way, if there’s been a breech of regulations, it’s the team that’s at fault, not Ricciardo. Indeed regardless of the eventual outcome (sure to be sorted very quickly, as the Malaysian Grand Prix is just two weeks away), Ricciardo proved his worth. He drove a very mature race, he didn’t try to push the car past the limits he was learning of lap by lap, by attempting to catch the race leader, he kept out of trouble and maintained his position (2nd) throughout the race. His handling of the car, himself and his responsibilities towards his team, sponsors and us, the fans, was a joy to watch. Ricciardo has arrived and brought with him good humour, manners and sportsmanship – he may well have a thing or two to teach his team mate.